What is Azure Databricks?

The Azure Databricks Lakehouse Platform provides a unified set of tools for building, deploying, sharing, and maintaining enterprise-grade data solutions at scale. Azure Databricks integrates with cloud storage and security in your cloud account, and manages and deploys cloud infrastructure on your behalf.

Managed integration with open source

Databricks has a strong commitment to the open source community. The following technologies are open source projects founded by Databricks employees:

Azure Databricks maintains a number of proprietary tools that integrate and expand these technologies to add optimized performance and ease of use, such as the following:

How does Azure Databricks work with Azure?

The Azure Databricks platform architecture is composed of two primary parts: the infrastructure used by Azure Databricks to deploy, configure, and manage the platform and services, and the customer-owned infrastructure managed in collaboration by Azure Databricks and your company.

Unlike many enterprise database companies, Azure Databricks does not force you to migrate your data into proprietary storage systems in order to use the platform. Instead, you configure a Azure Databricks workspace by configuring secure integrations between the Azure Databricks platform and your cloud account, and then Azure Databricks deploys ephemeral compute clusters using cloud resources in your account to process and store data in object storage and other integrated services you control.

Unity Catalog further extends this relationship, allowing you to manage permissions for accessing data using familiar SQL syntax from within Azure Databricks.

Azure Databricks has deployed workspaces that meet the security and networking requirements of some of the world’s largest and most security-minded companies. Azure Databricks makes it easy for new users to get started on the platform, and removes many of the burdens and concerns of working with cloud infrastructure from end users, but does not limit the customizations and control experienced data, operations, and security teams require.

What is Azure Databricks used for?

Our customers use Azure Databricks to process, store, clean, share, analyze, model, and monetize their datasets with solutions from BI to machine learning. You can use the Azure Databricks platform to build many different applications spanning data personas. Customers who fully embrace the lakehouse take advantage of our unified platform to build and deploy data engineering workflows, machine learning models, and analytics dashboards that power innovations and insights across an organization.

The Azure Databricks workspace provides user interfaces for many core data tasks, including tools for the following:

  • Interactive notebooks
  • Workflows scheduler and manager
  • SQL editor and dashboards
  • Data ingestion and governance
  • Data discovery, annotation, and exploration
  • Compute management
  • Machine learning (ML) experiment tracking
  • ML model serving
  • A feature store
  • Source control with Git

In addition to the workspace UI, you can interact with Azure Databricks programmatically with the following tools:

  • CLI
  • Terraform

What are common use cases for Azure Databricks?

Use cases on Azure Databricks are as varied as the data processed on the platform and the many personas of employees that work with data as a core part of their job. The following use cases highlight how users throughout your organization can leverage Azure Databricks to accomplish tasks essential to processing, storing, and analyzing the data that drives critical business functions and decisions.

Build an enterprise data lakehouse

The data lakehouse combines strenghts of data warehouses and data lakes to accelerate, simplify, and unify enterprise data solutions. Data engineers, data scientists, analysts, and production systems can all leverage the data lakehouse as a single source of truth, allowing timely access to consistent data and reducing the complexities of building, maintaining, and syncing many distributed data systems. See What is the Databricks Lakehouse?.

ETL and data engineering

Whether you’re generating dashboards or powering artificial intelligence applications, data engineering provides the backbone for data-centric companies by making sure data is available, clean, and stored in data models that allow for efficient discovery and use. Azure Databricks combines the power of Apache Spark with Delta Lake and custom tools to provide an unrivaled ETL (extract, transform, load) experience. You can use SQL, Python, and Scala to compose ETL logic and then orchestrate scheduled job deployment with just a few clicks.

Delta Live Tables simplifies ETL even further by intelligently managing dependencies between datasets and automatically deploying and scaling production infrastructure to ensure timely and accurate delivery of data per your specifications.

Azure Databricks provides a number of custom tools for data ingestion, including Auto Loader, an efficient and scalable tool for incrementally and idempotently loading data from cloud object storage and data lakes into the data lakehouse.

Machine learning, AI, and data science

Azure Databricks machine learning expands the core functionality of the platform with a suite of tools tailored to the needs of data scientists and ML engineers, including MLflow and the Databricks Runtime for Machine Learning. See Databricks Machine Learning guide.

Data warehousing, analytics, and BI

Azure Databricks combines user-friendly UIs with cost-effective compute resources and infinitely scalable, affordable storage to provide a powerful platform for running analytic queries. Administrators configure scalable compute clusters as SQL warehouses, allowing end users to execute queries without worrying about any of the complexities of working in the cloud. SQL users can run queries against data in the lakehouse using the SQL query editor or in notebooks. Notebooks support Python, R, and Scala in addition to SQL, and allow users to embed the same visualizations available in dashboards alongside links, images, and commentary written in markdown.

Data governance and secure data sharing

Unity Catalog provides a unified data governance model for the data lakehouse. Cloud administrators configure and integrate coarse access control permissions for Unity Catalog, and then Azure Databricks administrators can manage permissions for teams and individuals. Privileges are managed with access control lists (ACLs) through either user-friendly UIs or SQL syntax, making it easier for database administrators to secure access to data without needing to scale on cloud-native identity access management (IAM) and networking.

Unity Catalog makes running secure analytics in the cloud simple, and provides a division of responsibility that helps limit the reskilling or upskilling necessary for both administrators and end users of the platform. See What is Unity Catalog?.

The lakehouse makes data sharing within your organization as simple as granting query access to a table or view. For sharing outside of your secure environment, Unity Catalog features a managed version of Delta Sharing.

DevOps, CI/CD, and task orchestration

The development lifecycles for ETL pipelines, ML models, and analytics dashboards each present their own unique challenges. Azure Databricks allows all of your users to leverage a single data source, which reduces duplicate efforts and out-of-sync reporting. By additionally providing a suite of common tools for versioning, automating, scheduling, deploying code and production resources, you can simplify your overhead for monitoring, orchestration, and operations. Workflows schedule Azure Databricks notebooks, SQL queries, and other arbitrary code. Repos let you sync Azure Databricks projects with a number of popular git providers. For a complete overview of tools, see Developer tools and guidance.

Real-time and streaming analytics

Azure Databricks leverages Apache Spark Structured Streaming to work with streaming data and incremental data changes. Structured Streaming integrates tightly with Delta Lake, and these technologies provide the foundations for both Delta Live Tables and Auto Loader. See What is Apache Spark Structured Streaming?.